I don't know what will happen with senior guard Deonta Vaughn in these final few games of the season. I thought, after his slow start at the beginning of the year, he'd slowly start to come around and begin to show the abilities he's showcased so impressively the past three seasons.
He's one of the best scorers in Bearcats history, and after admitting earlier this season he hadn't worked quite as hard last summer as he should have, I figured his point totals would rise and his impact on the team would deepen.
Apparently, I was wrong. After scoring six points in UC's win against DePaul on Wednesday, the two-time All-Big East player is averaging 11.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 38.9 percent from the floor and 32.7 percent from the 3. He's been serviceable, but he's not the same Deonta Vaughn he was last year or the year before.
After the DePaul game, coach Mick Cronin tried to give Vaughn credit, saying he's been the first player to arrive at practice and for shoot-arounds and that he's trying hard to get himself out of his funk. But that doesn't answer the question of what's gone wrong.
"He's had senioritis all year," Cronin said. "Too much pressure on himself knowing it's his last year. You feel for kids in that situation. It's easy for me to sit here and judge him. I have a bank account and a nice house. It's hard to judge a young guy like him. You have to understand who he is and where he comes from. Not only would they like to make it and help themselves, but they'd like to help others as well. It's helping others live a better life."
Vaughn obviously would like to help UC to victories and would like to get taste of the NCAA tournament for the first time in his career. But there's a larger issue in his mind. He knows he'll need to make money next year. A spot in the NBA would be immensely huge for him and his family. He knows the way he's played this season hasn't helped his prospects. More pressure and more pressure.
"If you knew the background of some of my players and some of the guys playing, you'd understand the pressures that are on them," Cronin said. "You try to alleviate that as much as you can. Here's a guy who's wondering where his next meals are going to come from after his scholarship is gone. He's not going home to a six-car garage.
"(His family and friends) are there supporting him but you don't think he feels it? He understands. They all do. That's the thing a lot of college players deal with, guys who are trying to make it as professionals. It happens to a lot of seniors unfortunately."
One mistake Vaughn made was in the offseason when he didn't prepare quite as hard as normal. That hard work, in essence, is what made Vaughn such a strong player in the first place. Without it, you see what he's got.
"I think he made the mistake of coming into the year overconfident because of the success he had, being All Big-East two times," Cronin said. "The problem with him is he's Charley Hustle. If he doesn't work hard and he's not totally ready to go, he loses his edge. He's not Tracy McGrady. He's Jameer Nelson. He's a grinder. That's who he is. He's not the best athlete on the court, he's not the fastest guy on the court. His whole life, he's been the toughest guy on the court. He has to have that edge about him."